[Air-L] Mastodon Research CFP, June 2023

Petter Ericson pettter at cs.umu.se
Thu Mar 16 09:49:36 PDT 2023

Dear list, and symposium organizers

Though outside my research area, the event looks very interesting!

However, as a Mastodon user, I would just like to raise the issue of
appropriation of data in the study of Mastodon users, and the importance of
consent. Keep in mind that many (if not all) users that have moved from
traditional social media onto Mastodon and the broader fediverse have done
so at least in part because of concerns over what the things they post
online will be used for.

As such, I would argue that to an _even greater extent than usual_, it is
important for researchers working on Mastodon to be careful about the study
of user-posted data, in particular content that has been federated from
other servers, and _including_ posts made with "public" visibility. It's
also worth considering the (disproportionately?) large cohort of LGBTQ+
people on the fediverse, and what impact your research may have on
marginalized people more broadly, even such folks living in (for the
moment) "open" and "tolerant" countries.

Briefly: Keep your studies opt-in if at all possible, and be especially
careful about releasing any datasets of more or less indiscriminately
gathered data. 

Hoping you will all have a great event in Warwick!

All the best,


On 15 March, 2023 - nathaniel tkacz via Air-L wrote:

> *Call for Presentations *
> Mastodon: Research Symposium and Tool Exploration Workshop
> Date: 22nd and 23rd of June, 2023
> Place: University of Warwick, UK + online (hybrid event, GMT time)
> Although established in 2016, Mastodon grew rapidly in the second half of
> 2022. From an estimated 500,000 monthly active users (MAUs) it reached an
> apparent peak of 2.5 million MAUs in December 2022 before settling back to a
> reported 1.4 million as of late January 2023. The rise of Mastodon cannot
> be separated from the tragi-spectacle of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover, and
> this raises new questions about the relationship between social media
> platforms and their alternatives. How should we understand the significance
> of Mastodon, both as an alternative to Twitter and in its own right?
> We know Mastodon has long appealed to users invested in the infrastructural
> politics of open-source and federated architectures. But less is known about
> Mastodon’s forms of sociality and how its infrastructural characteristics
> shape this sociality. Can Mastodon sociality scale without the viral
> dynamics of algorithmic feeds? Should we even evaluate Mastodon based on
> its potential for growth on the scale of the commercial platforms? Are its new
> users simply on a Twitter sabbatical? How has the influx of users altered
> the dynamics of Mastodon?
> Mastodon users are spared from the advertising-derived attention economy,
> but ads are relatively low down on the scale of undesirable
> interactions on social
> media. How is Mastodon handling racism, trolling, and content moderation? Is
> there a specificity to the violence and abuse experienced on Mastodon as
> compared to its commercial counterparts?
> Mastodon introduces a novel level of social media governance, the instance,
> whose structures of authority can take various forms, from mini-chiefdoms
> to more deliberative collectives. What do we know about how different
> Mastodon instances handle governance and the exercise of their ‘instance-
> power’? Conversely, which tactics have malicious users developed to
> circumvent moderation or blocking? If platform politics emerges through the
> unique affordance of a platform, what might we expect from the federated
> architecture of Mastodon?
> Finally, Mastodon’s architecture presents new challenges and opportunities
> for digital research. What kinds of research do the existing tools (such as
> the R package “rtoot”) enable and what other tools and software might we
> want to develop? Could Mastodon be used to explore more conscientious ways of
> doing API-style research?
> This event seeks to take the pulse of current Mastodon research. It
> will involve
> a one-day symposium featuring research presentations and a plenary address
> by alternative social media researcher, Robert Gehl. This will be followed
> by a one-day tool exploration workshop featuring RToot developers David
> Schoch and Chung-hong Chan. The symposium will be a hybrid event based at
> the University of Warwick. The tool exploration will be in-person only. If
> you would like to participate in this event, please submit an application
> via the following website by midnight (anywhere) on the 14th of April:
> https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/cdi/news-events/mastodon_research/.
> You will be asked for the following:
>    - a 300-word presentation abstract
>    - either a URL link to your research profile or a 150-word biography
>    - an indication of attendance mode (in-person or online)
>    - an indication of whether you wish to participate in the tool workshop
>    (in-person only)
> Possible topics might include:
>    - Mastodon governance
>    - Mastodon feature analysis or interface criticism
>    - Cultural studies of Mastodon
>    - Black Mastodon
>    - Mastodon sociality and/or community dynamics
>    - Platform migration
>    - Mastodon and Twitter relations
>    - Mastodon apps
>    - Instance politics
>    - Cross instance research
>    - Methods and tools for studying Mastodon
>    - Novel use cases of Mastodon instances
> If you have any questions, please get in touch with n[dot]tkacz[at]warwick[
> dot]ac[dot]uk.
> Thanks for your consideration,
> Nate Tkacz, Carlos Cámara-Menoyo and Fangzhou Zhang
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Petter Ericson, pettter at cs.umu.se
Postdoc in the Responsible AI group, Department of Computing Science, 
University of Umeå

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